Saturday, 17 March 2012

Routing Around Obstacles: Your Internet And Real Life Options

The internet works by linking websites to each other via nodes supplied by our ISPs. To make it easy for non-programmers, we have URLs to identify which websites we're on. When something goes wrong and either a node or a website goes down, the internet routes around it so that there's no way to effectively break it if there are enough alternatives to the available relays. This fact has led to a growing culture in which people find ways around the blockages, obstacles and breaks in the things they usually rely on to communicate and do business.


The idea of bypassing money by bartering is not a new one. Indeed, a quick search on Google reveals a shift towards barter to get around the constraints of an economy in recession. In Greece, however, they're taking it to another level and it's beginning to supplant the Euro as a medium of exchange. Called TEMS, it works like this: you provide goods and/or services and are paid in TEMS, which are internet units of currency stored in an online "bank." There are vouchers for people without TEMS accounts. You then exchange these for goods and/or services from other people. Shops in Volos, Greece, accept them on a 50/50 exchange rate with Euros because you have to pay for some things with money.

What rules the system has are designed to ensure the tems continue “to circulate, and work hard as a currency”, said Christos Pappionannou, a mechanical engineer who runs the network’s website using open-source software.

No one may hold more than 1,200 tems in the account “so people don’t start hoarding; once you reach the top limit you have to start using them.”

And no one may owe more than 300, so people “can’t get into debt, and have to start offering something”.

Businesses that are part of the network are allowed to do transactions partly in tems, and partly in euros; most offer a 50/50 part-exchange.

“We recognise that they have their fixed costs, they have to pay a rent and bills in euros,” said Pappionannou. “You could say that their ‘profit’ might be taken in Tems, to be reinvested in the network.” - The Raw Story

Despite the reservations of some of the town's residents, the scheme is taking off and is set to go nationwide.


Open-source software is software whose source code is published and made available to the public, enabling anyone to copy, modify and redistribute the source code without paying royalties or fees.[20] Open source code can evolve through community cooperation. These communities are composed of individual programmers as well as very large companies. Many of these individuals programmers who start an open source project usually end up as large companies with open source programs. - Wikipedia

Many of the open source programs I use are on the list that follows that paragraph. I simply couldn't operate without it. The one they missed was Kompozer, my HTML graphics editor. A life without open source programs is a life spent paying back a massive overdraft for the updates I would need to my Adobe Suite programs and the Microsoft Office Suite. I use OpenOffice instead, saving a fortune on everyday activities on my PC. These allow me to innovate and generate my own content for my websites and blogs.

The best part is that failing to make them interoperable with the industry standard software is monopolism and that's illegal. So how do the poor big software companies cope with the competition from free stuff? Make better, more desirable products with more bells and whistles than the open source ones I use and convince the big graphic design and web services companies that their products are the industry standard. And they're doing fine, thank you very much.

Essential internet services

There are a few movements trying to popularize mesh networking to get around ISP censorship, which I've mentioned in another post. Alternative operating systems are available, some more desirable than others. In an era in which a company can remove software from your PC, laptop or mobile phone remotely this is becoming a viable option. They can say what they want about it only being for malware. We're moving towards a digital environment in which snooping and invading our privacy is becoming both legal and normal. What's to stop anyone from getting into our PC's remotely and and seeing what we have or haven't got on them in order to report and prosecute people for file sharing? Our ISPs are being ordered to do it and charge us £20 per accusation. That's where mesh networking comes in. No ISP, no snooping.

The next thing to change is DNS services, which are currently managed by ICANN for top level domains such as .com and .org. There are some options available but are currently not being widely pursued. Blogger and programmer Lauren Weinstein has been working on a solution and requires some backup and assistance to popularize his idea.

The scope of the project on which I've been working, which I call IDONS - Internet Distributed Open Name System -- is in early stages, but would ultimately be significant both in terms of technology and time. It may perhaps be reasonably compared with the scale of IPv6 deployment in some ways.

That's where he's at and as of this date, it's stalled. Something needs to be done and the Pirate Bay's solution may lead to fragmentation and confusion.

There is of course, VPN, but that's only as secure as the service provider, and when using one the website you're viewing can get wise to it and kick you off. What we're aiming for is a private and secure way to browse the internet without some self-appointed Plod looking over our shoulders ready to blame us for other people's misdeeds.

Of course, if our various governments would simply agree to a radical overhaul of our ridiculous IP laws, we would be able to just carry on as usual. Like that's gonna happen!

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